Filmmaker Joe York is a casual guy in his mid 30's with wisps of gray hair. He grew up in Glencoe, Alabama. The son of a school teacher and steelworker does't put off the air of a film maker. He just does it, and well.
For about a decade, York has been making short documentaries at the University of Mississippi for the Southern Foodways Alliance. These films follow Southern food producers and cultivators, chefs and farmers, appreciators and adorers. These little vignettes have been captured and edited on the road. He has driven his state-sponsored car from Texas to Virginia listening to stories like that of a third generation peach farmer that wrote a renowned book on a legal pad at her stand or the family who brings a community together once a year for a traditional squirrel stew made in an old hog scalding pot or an aging farmer who tongs oysters in Apalachicola all day by himself.
These shorts have been culled together into a nice, neat hour-long compilation, Pride & Joy. With no singular narrative voice, this piece seeks to tell you about food in the South through a multitude of regional personalities.
There are some stars here. York sits down for ramps and pork with famed bacon-maker, Allan Benton, and finishes up an afternoon over 750 ml glasses of wine with White Oak Pastures' Will Harris. But it is the regionally infamous, word-of-mouth producers that really make up the heart of this grouping.
The most endearing take away from the film is his ability to leave you alone with the speaker. You rarely see or hear from York in his films. This allows the individuals you don't always read or hear about to tell their stories to the audience. You feel like you are sitting down at their kitchen table drinking buttermilk with them or standing next to their homemade smoker, wiping the smoke-induced tears away as you discuss the hard work and love that goes into their craft. You get to hear the stories passed down as if they were your Grandmother's or favorite Uncle's.
These stories seek to preserve, and we all know how the South loves its preserves.
Pride & Joy is currently touring in Georgia and Louisiana. More information on dates and tickets can be found here.
Images courtesy of Joe York